Hints for Applicants
Hint 1: Internet Presence
Applicants for various chaplaincy positions need to be aware of and careful with their on-line presences, beginning with an appropriate-sounding email address. Cutesy or too sensuous ones certainly need to be avoided!
Initialsfirstname.lastname@example.org addresses are always appropriate.
Social Media. For other social media dos and don'ts, the following article is excellent:
"What the Internet Knows About You" from Newsweek
Professional Behavior. How should one behave when using the internet?
Please watch the clip "An Internet Lesson" from TVKIM.com.
Also, "10 Commandments for Daily Digital Manners" from The Kim Komando Show
Removing Yourself From the Internet. Here is a great how-to article to erase embarrassing comments/presence: "How to delete yourself from the Internet" from The Kim Komando Show.
Also, here is a PDF published by the US Marine Corps on the topic of removing yourself from the internet: Public People Search Database Removal Guide
Big Data is watching you! Tips on closing some of the blinds: http://www.komando.com
Hint 2: Be Honest
Never lie on an application to us or for an institution. If we cannot trust you with being truthful and candid from the very beginning, well.... Enough said!
But, if you want to read and see more on the topic: Huffington Post: How to Spot a Liar
Hint 3: Don't Take Shortcuts
If you are trying to take a shortcut in becoming a chaplain or pastoral counselor, you will always be looking for the "easy," fast way. And usually the easy, fast way, isn't! If you live your life to squeak-by, doing the absolute minimum, you probably are not pastoral caregiver material. God uses the process(es) to mature us and prepare us for solid ministry. If you are all about shortcuts, keep moving and don't stop here. The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches seeks to credential quality; not so much quantity. To find other endorsers, Google "endorsers" or "endorsing bodies" and run with the folks who offer quick online ordination and endorsement. It may not get you into the chaplaincy genre you desire, but it will be a great shortcut!
Hint 4: Do Your Research
When comparing endorsing bodies, take a look at the endorsing body's boards and the quality of their website (Do they copy/plagiarize forms and even entire pages from others [mostly from The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches!] ? Why?) Look at what their leadership and advisors have written and accomplished in the field. Are the Endorsers themselves active in national pastoral care organizations [like the COMISS Network, or the Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies, or the Association of Professional Chaplains, the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, the National Conference on Ministry in the Armed Forces, etc], attending annual meetings and sitting on national boards? Are the Endorsers themselves well-credentialed and well-experienced as chaplains and professional pastoral caregivers? Ask around about them among national organizations and military recruiters. Are they known and respected?
Sadly some "Endorsers" are either denominational appointees sent to that office to do a job they do not understand, and have little preparation for. Or worse, they are out trying to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting prospective chaplains and have little to no real understanding of and experience in professional chaplaincy. There are quite a few "endorsement mills" in the chaplaincy arena. Please make sure you do not get pressured by a recruiter or an institution to produce a fast endorsement that will prove later to be of little value or support — or worse, a source of embarrassment.
Hint 5: Calling and Ordination
A. Are you REALLY called to ministry/chaplaincy? While we realize that the following article is addressed to preachers/pastors, we want you to substitute "chaplain" for "preacher" or "pastor" and read it! Are You Sure God Really Called You Into the Ministry? If, after reading this article, you are sure you are, then read:
B. Yes, Spirit-filled chaplains MUST be Licensed or Ordained! Ordination is a function of the faith community to affirm the calling and gifting of the religious leader to the office/role that God has for him/her. And the role of that faith community is to pray for, encourage, and spiritually support their ordained clergy. As such it behooves the person being ordained to affiliate with a real "body" of believers who will offer that clergyperson real pastoral care and mentoring, real fellowship, real relationship. As even the secular organizations within the USA government (such as the Department of Defense) realizes, only real communities of faith—organized for and constituted of laypersons – have the authority to ordain (or defrock).
Ministers' fellowships, chaplains' gatherings and organizations, and ordination "companies" (just Google "fast clergy ordination" or "become ordained today"!) do not meet the requirements that the government sets for its military chaplains [please see http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/130428_2004_ch3.pdf, page 12, E2.1.10. Religious Organization]. Besides, what person desiring to be an authentic, qualified chaplain would want such a bogus, non-relationship-based ordination? Anecdotally, one endorser has recently reported that one of their denomination's clergy utilized an internet-based "ordaining company" to get his dog ordained and was able to do so – for a fee – immediately. This ordination company has very few, if any, real congregations or lay constituency, and yet it claims on its website that it is able to secure ecclesiastical endorsement for its clergy desiring to be military chaplains. A good rule of thumb: If it seems too easy and too quick to be valid or true, it probably is! Let the prospective clergy beware!
In stark contrast to such ordination/endorsement companies, The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches (CSC), is a bona fide coalition of independent congregations and networks/fellowships of like-minded congregations. And the CSC is not a "closed coalition." We are always open to more congregations and networks of churches affiliating with us, giving us their permission to represent their group's clergy for chaplaincy purposes only – and at no charge. [We are strictly a faith ministry totally supported by the voluntary donations of our chaplains and partner congregations and groups and friends] Hence, if you are already ordained by your local congregation or network of churches, PLEASE remain in that fellowship where you are loved and being cared for. You need not be re-ordained nor have your ordination transferred. Rather, simply ask that body where you are ordained to authorize The CSC to represent them and you. Please see http://spirit-filled.org/joining.html, and invite them to "sign-up" with us.
If you are not yet ordained, and it is not likely that you will be ordained by your home congregation, please feel free to give us a call to discuss it. There is an excellent chance that we can introduce you to a congregation in your locale — or to a national network — with whom we already have relationship. We now represent hundreds of Spirit-filled congregations serving and filled with laypeople (not just a mail-order pseudo-church existing on paper-only!) with whom you can have a real, mutual, Christ-based pastoral, caring relationship. Please do not succumb to an ordination/endorsement mill and cheat yourself out of a bona-fide faith community who will be there for you and your family!
Hint 6: Resumes
And now, how to make a Ministry Resume worth reading:
- First, do not lie; do not embellish; and do not write "in faith" [that is, "calling things that are not, as though they are"]. For example, please do not state that you “helped direct the Christian Education Department of First Charismatic Church for 5 years,” when, really, you were the pre-school Sunday School teacher.
- Write clearly, and precisely, and not in generalities. Rather than state "Associate Pastor of First Maranatha Church" and leave it at that, DESCRIBE your responsibilities and achievements AND about how many hours per week you averaged in that position, if you were not full-time [e.g., "oversaw the community outreach and discipleship for the congregation and during the five years of part-time ministry (20 hours per week) I served on the leadership team, the church grew from 100 weekly worshipers to over 400"]. Be thorough — this is not a time to be modest and humble! Also, if you are/were not a professional [that is a “paid” employee of the church], please be clear about that. There is no shame in being a volunteer. State that you were/are a volunteer, if that was/is the case.
- Do not attempt to obfuscate your resume by double counting the same time-frame in different ministries. In other words, you have been on staff at First Church full-time (defined as 36 or more hours per week) for the past two years and at the same you do some volunteer correctional ministry several evenings a week and have done so for 3 years. Especially military applicants: Please do not try to confuse the reader by stating that you have been in correctional ministry for 3 years and then add the two ministry timeframes together to come up with 5 years of professional ministry experiences. In 2016, we had just such an applicant construct such a confusing resume and was caught by his senior chaplain interviewer. The interviewer called us and asked if we had figured-out how he had manipulated his resume. We had noted some ambiguity on his document , but had not picked-up on that. Needless to say, his interviewer recommended he be non-select for his attempts to deceive -- and the military agreed.
- If there are gaps in your ministry tenure, identify them and explain why they are there. Be positive and honest!
- Run your resume by a trusted friend or two or five, and ask for their sincere opinion.
Hint 7: Soft Skills
First, learn what they are: Soft Skills Definition: What are Soft Skills?
Next, honestly assess your own soft skills.
If you are "low" or unsure about some of them, especially emotional intelligence, seek some professional assistance. It is truly hard — with today's society with a STRONG emphasis on sincere commitment to diversity and pluralism — to be a successful chaplain, if you have low emotional intelligence.
Moreover, if you lack empathy, as a chaplain you are virtually doomed to failure, in my professional opinion and over twenty years experience as an endorser. How can you know whether or not you have empathy? Please spend five minutes and take a look at THIS VIDEO. If you do not feel a tugging at your heart for the folks in the video, you lack empathy.
Regarding emotional intelligence, it is important that you are both self-aware and others-aware. Are you emotionally transparent and even intimate with the world? Here is a 15-minute TEDx Talk by a theologically-educated life coach that you might find helpful: How We've Been Misled by 'Emotional Intelligence'
The Navy is even teaching emotional intelligence to its new officers now: Research Psychologist Proposes EI Training for New Officers.
Hint 8: Examine Yourself Through Your Prospective Endorser's and Employer's Eyes and Ears
The two-word key here is "Be Professional!" The following illustrations and exhortations are from real life encounters with prospective chaplains.
Phones. It is okay to list a cell phone as a point of contact. However: Make sure that your voicemail is set-up (it is a big put-off if you have been too lazy to greet your callers in your own voice with a cheerful, upbeat message vs. the "You have reached 555-555-5555. Please leave a message." Also, make sure your personal greeting sounds warm, energetic, and appropriate ("Yo, whattup, homey?" is not appropriate!) Your greeting — live or recorded — needs to be clear and enunciated. If you answer with a "hello," please make sure it rhymes with "jello" and is not "huh-low" or "hol-low." You may think these points are minor, but, from the employer's perspective, if you are lazy and unprofessional before hiring (when in the application phase), why should things change if you do get the position? Also, check and clear-out your voicemail box frequently. It is very discouraging for a prospective employer to reach a voicemail box where s/he cannot leave a message because the box is full.
Email. Check your email account and respond to your email frequently! If you are checking your email from a prospective employer only once every week or two — well, that tells your employer that you are NOT the one to hire! Also, find out your prospective endorser or employer's preferred mode of communication and use it. Remember you need them more than they need you. Also, if you are not internet savvy and competent, the chances of finding and keeping a chaplaincy ministry are virtually non-existent in today's world of IT communication and marketing. If you need a free email account, please visit http://spirit-filled.org/contact.html.
Grammar. While no one speaks or writes perfect English 100% of the time, you definitely need to sound like you have basic English competency and that do not have trouble communicating with educated people. All chaplains and chaplain candidates have at least an undergraduate degree, so sound like it. Make sure of your subject and verb agreement. Use proper tense, and basic spelling and correct capitalizations. To do less makes one look unprofessional. The employer looking for their next chaplain to hire will keep looking. Also, speaking multiple languages is always a big plus!
The Interview. When you do get invited to interview, you will want to be a LITTLE bit early. Arrive too early and you will seem too eager and will be an awkward inconvenience. Be polite and courteous when speaking with the receptionist. S/he often yields great power. But do not try to curry their favor nor pump them for inside information. They are pretty smart folks and can see thru this as they have probably dealt with many others before you. Do read 10 Things Receptionists Won't Tell You ahead of the interview or even prior to your initial personal contact with the company for some great pointers.
For the interview, you will want to dress for success: appropriate, well-fitting, cleaned and pressed business attire, along with shined shoes, and a fresh haircut/style. Do pay attention your grooming and hygene. Do some research on the company or institution you are interested in serving. Find out ahead of time what issues the company may be facing and be prepared to let them know how you will be a unique teamplayer with what you have to offer.
Hint 9: "Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders"
"Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders" from Christianity Today.
Hint 10: "The Chumbawamba Principle"
Read "The Chumbawamba Principle" from NPR.
Hint 11: Don't Take Shortcuts — Part II
If you skipped Hint 10, you really need to go back and read it. And I want you to ask yourself, why am I skipping free advice and wisdom? This is important. This is life, your ministry, and career. Don't take shortcuts. Don't cheat yourself!
Hint 12: Clinical Pastoral Education
First, if you want to know more about it, please visit http://spirit-filled.org/links1.html.
If you feel you have a good understanding of CPE, great! It is an excellent growing process for any clergy, and especially those seeking to be professional chaplains – of any genre!
Now, and this is important, if you are seeking to become a board certified chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains, please know that you MUST take at least 4 units of CPE in ADDITION to however many units of CPE that you have taken at your seminary as a requirement to earn your graduate degree. No double-dipping! No exceptions, no shortcuts! For more information on this, please download and carefully read Open Letter to ACPE Centers and ACPE Supervisors.
Hint 13: Digital Security
As chaplains and pastoral counselors, BE VERY CAREFUL with the confidential and privileged communication you receive. Please know that your very computer and cell phone can be broken into fairly readily. Password-protect everything! Even password-protected devices such as cell phones and computers can be broken into — especially when others have physical access to these devises.
The following is an article on how to re-gain control of your own computer, cell phone, etc when you have forgotten passwords. EXTREME CAUTION: Unsavory types — law-breakers — use the same information to break into your computer, cell phone, etc.
"Free tools to recover lost passwords" from The Kim Komando Show.
As professional keepers of secrets, do your very best to secure your counselees information!
Hint 13a: A Click Away from Malware
This is a must-read article! A Click Away from Malware from Programming 4 Us.
Hint 13b: Recovering a Hacked Account
Since this sort of hacking and hijacking happens so frequently (often from trojans, spies, and such that automatically install themselves from malicious sites that appear as links in innocent-looking spam emails), the following article might be helpful: "Recovering a hacked account" from The Kim Komando Show.
Another resource for what to do when you've been hacked can be found at http://www.kroll.com
Hint 14: The "How to Get a Job Manual"
Here is a good basic "How To" manual. Click here
Hint 15: Do N-O-T Use Skype for Calling Our Office!
We are receiving well over a dozen or so telemarketers or wrong numbers from Skype daily. And then when a chaplain or prospect does call and we answer, they can barely be understood the connection is so bad. Sometimes, they cannot be understood. PLEASE use your cell phone or if you have none, please find a hardline phone somewhere and us on the toll-free number we are pleased to provide. We have now set our phones to automatically REJECT Skype calls.
Hint 16: Liberty University 72-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program
**As of 12 October 2014 and until further notice, new applications from candidates who hold or are currently pursuing the Liberty University 72-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program will not be processed by this endorsing agency.**
We at The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches are passionate about those to whom our chaplains will minister. Their institutions deserve the highest quality of pastoral care. With limited resources and staff, I personally spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to vet each prospective candidate for endorsement. I spend a good deal of time, also, visiting our chaplains at their service schools and professional conferences. And I constantly act as liaison with the Chaplain Corps and other institutions to which we endorse. There are no short-cuts for providing quality professional endorsement. There are also no short-cuts for preparations for chaplaincy by candidates. Here at The Coalition, each applicant is personally screened and every aspect of their qualifications, experience and talents collated for their board package. We have found that the 72-hour Liberty University degree consistently falls short in competitiveness for board selection. We often wonder if it demonstrates a short-cut attitude toward preparations for what can be rigorous, challenging and demanding duty. For this reason, we currently must make the difficult decision to no longer consider these degrees.
If you already hold such a degree but have enhanced it with substantial additional graduate course work and/or nationally-accredited specialty ministry training such as clinical pastoral education, Prepare-Enrich certification or Critical Incident Stress Management Certification, PTSD Treatment, etc., feel free to contact us to discuss your individual preparation for chaplaincy and possible application for endorsement. Applicants with these additional credentials may be considered on a case-by-case basis. All others simply are not competitive for military chaplaincy positions, in our experience.
By the way, some military chaplaincy applicants report being very encouraged by their conversations with military recruiters. Unfortunately, this is highly misleading and such "encouragement" is misplaced. Legally, if one technically "qualifies" within the general parameters of the chaplaincy program requirements, one MUST be allowed to apply for consideration for commissioning within the Chaplain Corps. Even if the applicant is not competitive at all and the odds are 1 out of 1,000 for selection, that applicant still has the "right" to apply. So please do not mistake a recruiter's simple willingness to process your application as "a good sign!" They are simply following regulations.
Incidentally a few folks have asked why we have taken such a stand regarding Liberty University’s seminary. Interestingly, in the last week of October 2014 we received an unsolicited comment from one of our endorsees who is an alum of that seminary:
“...Regarding Liberty. I started out taking classes at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas. Most of my fellow chaplain candidates were completing their seminary degrees at Liberty. The tuition was half of SAGU and classes were offered more frequently. So I transferred to Liberty. I took classes at Liberty for about two years. However, I found the academic depth and standards to be significantly inferior to SAGU and other master level degree programs. I had also taken graduate business coursework at Texas A&M before taking classes at Liberty. I had 3-5 page papers at Liberty versus 15-25 page papers at SAGU. I typically had two textbooks per class at Liberty versus four to six at SAGU. Also, Liberty will let someone graduate with a Master of Divinity degree with a 2.0 grade-point-average. I don't know of any other University of Seminary that grants graduate degrees without a 3.0 grade-point-average or above.”
Frankly we thought that he might be exaggerating things a bit about Liberty University graduating folks with a minimal GPA of 2.0 -- and we then spoke with one of our active duty chaplains who is an alum of their 93-hour program. Our chaplain directed us to http://www.liberty.edu/online/?PID=27632.
We see this as very sad and we hope that the military and prospective quality chaplains take note.
11 December 2014 Update: We continue to get contacts from our endorsees with Liberty degrees who are reporting that they did not fare well on recent accession boards. We also had one of our chaplains contact us to report that there was a mean-spirited comment or two posted on the blog of The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy about our 12 October 2014 position on Liberty's 72-hour M.Div. degrees. As a result of those comments and to clarify some possible misperceptions, we have requested that a paper on “Why We Have Taken the Position We Have” be posted on that blog, and it was, at http://forumonthemilitarychaplaincy.org. Interestingly, I have already heard back from fellow endorsers commending The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches on our positions and that article.
Hint 17: RE: Military Chaplaincy
The military chaplaincy is drawing-down in job openings (especially when compared to the military build-up due to the past decade’s “War on Terrorism”). As such, it may be [or become] harder to be accessioned by the military. As such, we HIGHLY recommend that you make yourself as competitive as possible. You might be able to enhance your competitive edge by keeping your GPA as high as possible, taking as many classes in counseling as possible, picking up extra degrees (in addition to the MDiv), getting specialty certifications in chaplaincy-related services, learning and being proficient in other languages, taking clinical pastoral education (please see Hint #12), and, of course, being especially physically fit.
You will be well-served to make yourself as competitive as possible.
For information about the Army's accession policies, please follow the links to read the FY 2015 Policy. Most importantly, as of 9 November 2016: "The basic qualifications for a chaplain is governed by DoDI 1304.28. The Secretary of the Army has not implemented a professional work experience requirement upon the National Guard or Reserves. However, in an effort to access the most experienced and competent future chaplains, the Office of the Chief of Chaplains is staffing additional requirements to the DoDI qualifications: 1) In-residence requirement (48 hours/two-thirds) for the branch-qualifying graduate degree, 2) Two years professional work experience for all Army components." (See attached document.) How is "Professional Work Experienced defined?" As of April 2017, please click here.
Hint 18: Anderson University 5-year Bachelor’s Degree and [automatic] 75-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program
**As of 23 January 2015 and until further notice, applications from candidates who hold or are currently pursuing the Anderson University 75-hour M.Div. Chaplaincy Program will not be processed by this endorsing agency.**
Again, here is a get-thru-an-aggressive-8-year-program in 5 years approach. See auministry.com. They count 30 semester hours of their Bachelor’s degree toward fulfilling their very thin 75-hour MDiv’s requirements. And so with 45 hours more that one can apparently earn in a year, you have an MDiv. NOT a good idea in this highly competitive chaplaincy era. And we will not accept it as meeting our expectations for a proper education for chaplaincy – military or civilian.
Hint 19: Learn and Practice Professional Etiquette
Hint 20: Are you prepared for a test? If not, please get prepared.
Hint 21: Finding and Choosing a Seminary
While The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches does not require you to attend a specific seminary or choose from a particular pool of seminaries, we do expect you to attend one that holds national recognition with the Association of Theological Schools (or any other CHEA-approved accrediting organizations). We also encourage you to go with a more robust academic program (85 plus semester hours) over a skinny program (averaging 72 hours) and attend a brick-and-mortar campus versus studying on-line. We have found that folks with the longer degrees and who have experienced their spiritual development within a face-to-face community of fellow sojourners tend to be “professionally socialized” and they tend to do significantly better in both being selected for chaplaincy positions and successfully holding those positions — as well as grow more adeptly into their roles and callings.
A good article that might be helpful in discerning a seminary that might be a good fit for you is "The Fit Finder: How to Choose the Seminary that is Right for You." Be sure to click on the links within that article for additional information.
Hint 21a: Don’t let this happen to you!
We check credentials — and institutions and HR departments do too!
Pick a school wisely and check their accreditation standing with CHEA. If you are uncertain or want a second opinion, please call or email us. Far better safe than sorry!
More hints are coming as they are thought about....